Local News

Clayton police: No solid leads in church fire

Posted May 11, 2009 4:39 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2009 6:54 p.m. EDT

— Clayton's police chief said Monday that investigators have few leads in a church fire they believe was set intentionally and that they need the public to help solve the case.

Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, at 5217 Barber Mill Road, caught fire shortly before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. The blaze left two holes in the church's roof and caused extensive damage to the sanctuary.

Firefighters found that a door to the church had been forced open, and the church's community center, which houses a gymnasium, kitchen and classrooms, also had been broken into.

"It's frustrating at this stage of the investigation," Police Chief Glen Allen said. "But it's also frustrating to arrive and see a church on fire to begin with."

Police are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Last week, they conducted a traffic checkpoint in an effort to find anyone who might have seen anything. Allen said investigators have followed a few leads but have no clear motive as to why someone would have started the fire.

"We're not aware of anything that was stolen from inside," he said. "We don't know, offhand, of any reason anyone would have done this."

He is encouraging anyone who might have seen suspicious vehicles or people near the church or along Barber Mill Road early Wednesday to call the Clayton Police Department at 919-553-4611 or Clayton Crime Stoppers at 919-359-8479.

"People were overwhelmed and deeply saddened," the church's pastor, the Rev. Darrell Sauls, said. "It just leaves you feeling so empty."

The church, which has 100 members, met for services over the weekend at a local funeral home. Sauls said he hopes to resume service soon in a back recreation building.

He said he hopes someone is arrested quickly in the case, "not only that they would be brought to justice for what they did to our church but to make sure they are not permitted to do this again."